The National Science Foundation gives big money to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action

September 10, 2023 • 9:15 am

Like many scientific organizations, the National Science Foundation was established to support science, but is rapidly altering its mission to achieve “social justice.”  As its webpage notes:

The U.S. National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports science and engineering in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

NSF was established in 1950 by Congress to:

    • Promote the progress of science.
    • Advance the national health, prosperity and welfare.
    • Secure the national defense.

If you conceive of “advancing the national welfare” as “promoting DEI initiatives,” then you might think it’s okay that the NSF handed out a $1.3 million grant designed to promote racial diversity in universities without violating the Supreme Court’s recent prohibition on race-based admissions. (That money, of course, came from the taxpayers, as the NSF is the biggest source of non-health-related science funding in America.)

Now the Court’s ban on race-based admissions applies to graduate schools as well as to undergraduate schools.  Nevertheless, SFA v. Harvard , while prohibiting race as an explicit criterion for admitting students, still allows race to be used in a circuitous way. Wikipedia describes and quotes the majority decision (my emphasis):

The majority opinion, written by Roberts, stated that the use of race was not a compelling interest, and the means by which the schools attempted to achieve diversity bore little or no relationship to the purported goals. It was noted however that this prohibition on the use of race in deciding who would be accepted did not stop universities from considering a student’s discussion of how their race has impacted their life “so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.

Ergo we should expect to see a lot of admissions questions in which students can mention their race (especially if they’re members of minorities) in connection with their character or accomplishments, giving admissions officers an implicit lever to promote their applications.  But you can also expect that this practice, too, will be monitored like Harvard’s “personality scores” to see if it leads to ethnic discrimination. That would lead to more court cases.

Enter the National Science Foundation, which has decided to throw money at designing “rubrics”: guidelines, presumably for vetting grad-school admissions,  designed to promote racial diversity without violating the Supreme Court’s guidelines. Click to read:

Below is the University of Southern California’s announcement of the grant awarded to “understand” the effect of evaluation rubrics on racial diversity, presumably by using mock evaluations by groups of students.

The recipient, Dr. Julie Posselt, is an associate professor of education, and I’ve quoted USC’s entire announcement (indented, bolding is mine).

USC Rossier Associate Professor Julie Posselt (and project Principal Investigator) and a team of Pullias Center and University of Minnesota researchers have received a significant grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will examine evaluation rubrics and how they affect racial equity outcomes in graduate school admissions.

Using a mixed methods design, the four-year study led by Posselt and University of Minnesota co-PI David Quinn seeks to understand rubrics’ potential and limitations in racial equity outcomes at three levels: individual bias in judgment, organizations’ standard practices, and shared values. “Rubrics are tools, and we are investigating how their design and implementation affect outcomes,” stated Posselt.

Dr. Posselt, who also serves as Associate Dean of the USC Graduate School, has long been a leader in equity and admissions in higher education. Discussing the origins of this project, she shared, “The higher education community is looking for strategies to improve the fairness and transparency of admissions. And they need tools to advance mission-driven diversity within the bounds of the new Supreme Court rulings. We were inspired to conduct this research in part by listening to our community partners in the Equity in Graduate Education Consortium and Inclusive Graduate Education Research Hub. We hope to provide them and many others with generalizable evidence to advances equitable practice.”

More broadly, this project will enable universities across the country to improve their approaches to admissions following this summer’s rulings from the United States Supreme Court. Whether and how race-neutral admissions policies can be designed to mitigate inequities is an urgent question for the country, and people are looking to rubrics as a race-neutral tool that may improve diversity.

“This project will build on over a decades-long scholarship that Dr. Posselt has been engaged with that has focused on improving equity in graduate admissions.  It is exciting to see her scholarship put into practice and with support from the NSF,” added Dr. Adrianna Kezar, Director of the Pullias Center.

Given what is bolded, particularly the last bit, it’s hard to interpret this endeavor as anything other than a way for the NSF to fund tools for grad-school admissions that can promote racial diversity while being at the same time “race neutral.”

Note two things here. The first is the deep hypocrisy, if not duplicity, of using “race neutral” tools to improve racial diversity. These may be “race neutral” in the sense of not taking race explicitly into account, but they are a means of affirmative action nonetheless, for their aim is to “mitigate inequities”.

A recent article in the NYT suggests ChatGPT-based “rubric” questions that could be used in such a way, like asking “If you could teach any college course, what would it be?” This is taken from an actual question asked by Yale University Here’s what one bot came up with, with no prompting about social justice!

If I could teach any college course, it would be a seminar on the intersectionality of social justice issues, focusing on how systems of oppression intersect and impact marginalized communities. Through discussions, case studies, and community engagement projects, students would gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of social justice work and develop strategies for creating positive change.

Now give that applicant an extra 50 points on their ranking!  And yes, this is the way that the “rubrics” are likely to work.

Second, and make no mistake about it: the “inequities” are not socioeconomic inequities, nor political inequities, religious inequities, family-history inequities (are you the first in your family to apply to grad school?, etc.) or viewpoint inequities. They are racial inequities, pure and simple. There is only one kind of “diversity” that this grant was designed to promote, at least according to USC’s description.  The Supreme Court decision mentioned viewpoint diversity, and explicitly noted that “members of the same race do not all share the exact same experiences and viewpoints, far from it,” adding that suggesting otherwise constitutes “the same naked racism on which segregation is built.”

Yet after the Supreme Court banned race-based admissions, Harvard President-Elect Claudine Gay, echoing many other college presidents, said this:

“We will comply with the Court’s decision, but it does not change our values. We continue to believe—deeply—that a thriving, diverse intellectual community is essential to academic excellence and critical to shaping the next generation of leaders.”

This conflates intellectual diversity with ethnic diversity, and does so deliberately.

Don’t take this post as an attempt to justify the absence of ethnic diversity in colleges or graduate schools.  An all-white or all-Asian Harvard or University of Chicago would suggest that America has failed in some important ways.  The reparations needed to achieve ethnic diversity in college, graduate school, or among professors, however, need to be enacted not by devising higher-education “rubrics” to somehow promote equity. By the time students get to grad school, and probably college, it’s too late. But some programs can help with promoting ethnic diversity in college, including mentoring, tutoring, or casting wider nets for applicants.

But the real work would involve creating equal opportunity for all Americans from the moment of birth, and realizing that this may not result in equal outcomes. Creating equal opportunity in this way would be immensely hard work, and would involve a huge investment of national will, effort, and resources. But it’s the only method that will finally allow us to do away with affirmative action and the workarounds funded by the likes of the NSF.  And one thing is for sure: contrived “rubrics” won’t get the job done.

h/t: Anna

My new college application essay, written by AI in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision

July 22, 2023 • 11:15 am

I got this idea from a friend, whose colleague, aware that the decision to ban race-based affirmative action in college would lead to new workarounds, used Chat-GPT to generate one of those workarounds: the “adversity essay.” That is, the Supreme Court left open the option that, although you couldn’t check a box labeled “race” on your college application, nor could colleges give you a boost simply because of your race, you could still write an essay emphasizing your ethnicity, explaining how it was associated with adversity that eventually led you to become a resilient proponent of DEI. This potential way to evade race-specific admissions has led some to say that many colleges will change their entrance essays (as well as eliminating standardized tests) into questions that can be answered by explaining how you overcame adversity, giving you ample opportunity to emphasize your minority status while not violating the Supreme Court’s standards.

The essay that gave me this idea came from my friend’s colleague asking Chat-GPT this question, “Write a college essay explaining why stubbing my toe in the 4th grade gave me the desire and character to become a neurosurgeon. Make it a good essay, not too stuffy, and mention my background as a child of carnies [carnival workers] as a reason why I have overcome adversity.” The answer was funny, but I didn’t want to just reproduce that exchange.

I decided to use my real ethnicity (99% Ashkenazi Jew) and write a college essay to work around a fictional scenario, a Supreme Court ruling that colleges could not have affirmative action favoring Jews. But my question was based on a real incident: at the school-bus stop in ninth grade in Germany, a group of (American) bullies started calling me a “dirty Jew”. That precipitated the only fistfight I’ve ever been in. I decided to use that incident as the basis of a college-admissions essay. Here’s the question I asked Chat-GPT:

Write a college essay explaining why, when a group of bullies called me a “dirty Jew” in high school, that gave me the will, desire, and character to become a biologist. Make it a good essay and concentrate on how overcoming this adversity was instrumental in my success.

Title: Embracing Diversity: How Overcoming Adversity Paved the Path to Becoming a Biologist


High school, often described as a formative period in one’s life, can present both opportunities for growth and challenges that shape who we become. My personal experience with a group of bullies calling me a “dirty Jew” during those years not only ignited a deep sense of determination but also instilled in me a fervent desire to pursue a career in biology. This essay explores how overcoming this adversity became instrumental in my success as a biologist and how it shaped my commitment to understanding the intricacies of life.

Finding Strength in Diversity

As the echoes of those hurtful words reverberated in my mind, I realized that their cruelty stemmed from ignorance and a lack of understanding of diversity. Instead of letting their words define me, I decided to use the experience as a catalyst to explore my roots, culture, and heritage. My Jewish identity became a source of strength, reminding me that embracing diversity is vital in fostering a harmonious and inclusive society. This realization not only empowered me to stand tall against bigotry but also kindled a passion for understanding the diverse ecosystems that make up our planet.

Fostering Curiosity and Intellectual Resilience

Overcoming adversity can often fuel a profound sense of curiosity, prompting individuals to seek answers to complex questions. As I faced the challenges thrown my way, I found solace in exploring the natural world. I immersed myself in biology textbooks, documentaries, and scientific journals, seeking to comprehend the inner workings of living organisms and the broader ecological systems. Each discovery felt like a triumph against the bullies’ attempts to bring me down, reinforcing my dedication to the pursuit of knowledge.

From the Depths of Discrimination to the Heights of Empathy

Experiencing discrimination firsthand cultivated empathy within me. I realized that just as I yearned for understanding and acceptance, so did countless other beings across the natural world. This empathy became the driving force behind my decision to become a biologist with a focus on conservation. By dedicating myself to preserving biodiversity and protecting vulnerable ecosystems, I could extend the lessons I learned from my own experiences to advocate for a more compassionate and interconnected world.

Channeling Adversity into Advocacy

My encounters with prejudice taught me the importance of being an advocate for change. As a biologist, I saw the opportunity to not only study and research but also to contribute to larger societal conversations about diversity, inclusion, and environmental conservation. Through my scientific endeavors, I aimed to educate others about the interconnectedness of all life forms and the significance of cherishing our shared environment. In this way, I could transform my own painful experiences into a catalyst for positive change on a broader scale.


In retrospect, the bullies’ derogatory comments were a crucible that forged my character and led me on a path towards becoming a biologist. The adversity I faced taught me to embrace diversity, foster curiosity, and develop intellectual resilience. It instilled in me a profound sense of empathy and ignited a passion for advocacy and conservation. The lessons I learned from those challenging times have not only shaped my career choice but also motivated me to strive for a world where understanding and compassion prevail.

As I pursue my journey in biology, I remain committed to using my knowledge and experiences to build bridges of understanding, promote diversity, and contribute to the betterment of our global community. I firmly believe that it is through overcoming adversity that we discover our true potential and, in turn, find the strength to make a meaningful impact on the world around us.

Isn’t that great? Even I couldn’t have thought of this angle!

The National Academies post a position statement on affirmative action, followed by an email exchange between Steven Pinker and NA President Marcia McNutt

July 17, 2023 • 11:00 am

Note: This post originally was to include both Steve Pinker’s emails to National Academies President Marcia McNutt as well as her responses to Pinker (two from each), but in the end she decided that she did not want her emails reproduced here. (Both she and Pinker were sent my introduction given below.) Pinker, however, gave me permission to reproduce his.  You can try to infer McNutt’s response from Steve’s second email.

Steve sent the first email in response to the “National Academies Presidents Statement on Affirmative Action” below.


Intro (by JAC):

On June 30, the Presidents of our three National Academies issued a joint statement on the Supreme Court decision handed down the day before, the decision that found race-based admissions in universities unconstitutional. Affirmative action, at least as we’d known it for six decades, was dead.

In response to this decision, Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), John L. Anderson, President of the National Academy of Engineering, and Victor J. Dzau, President, National Academy of Medicine, issued the statement below. Because it’s on the home page of the National Academies website, was co-signed by all three presidents, is labeled “National Academies’ Presidents’ Statement” rather than “Opinion,” and lacks the standard disclaimer that the views expressed are those of the writers and not the organization, it’s natural to read it as an official position. I thus take it as an official position of the Academies and not just a personal expression of the Presidents’ sentiments.

National Academies Presidents’ Statement on Affirmative Action

Statement | June 30, 2023

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling to restrict affirmative action that will present challenges to efforts to diversify the nation’s colleges and universities. We strongly believe that the nation should remain committed to these efforts and find solutions that address racial inequities, including past and current racial discrimination and structural, systemic, and institutional racism in education.

A 2011 National Academies report stated that policies that have included affirmative action are fundamentally important to increasing the participation of members of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups at the postsecondary level across all fields (NASEM, 2011, p. 100). The report further states that increasing their participation and success contributes to the health of the nation by expanding the science and engineering talent pool, enhancing innovation, and improving the nation’s global economic leadership (NASEM, 2011, p. 3). A National Academies report issued in February 2023 recommends that leaders of organizations, including colleges and universities, take action to redress both individual bias and discrimination as well as review their own processes to determine whether they perpetuate negative outcomes for people from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups at critical points of access and advancement (NASEM, 2023, pp. 14-15).

It is essential that our nation extend the opportunity for a college education to all, enhance diverse learning experiences for all students, and create equitable pathways to grow a highly skilled workforce and to solve our most complex problems. Diversity is crucial to the success of our society and our economy.

We must also remain committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within our own institution. We will continue to examine the implications of the decision for our staff and our work as an institution, our relationships with partners and volunteers, and our essential work of providing evidence-based advice to the nation on issues related to science, engineering, and medicine.

Marcia McNutt
President, National Academy of Sciences 

John L. Anderson
President, National Academy of Engineering 

Victor J. Dzau
President, National Academy of Medicine 

This statement could not be issued by my own school, the University of Chicago, as it violates the position of institutional neutrality laid out by our 1967 Kalven Report, which forbids our school from making official statements about politics, ideology, and morality unless they are essential to bolstering the university’s function: teaching, learning, and researching. (Our own five-line statement supporting equal opportunity and access for minority groups, while saying that we’re committed to affirmative action, says nothing about the Supreme Court decision, nor have we issued a statement about it.) The Kalven Report was issued because official statements by University officials or departments could be seen as chilling the speech of those who disagree with these positions. (Unofficial and personal statements, of course, are encouraged as free speech, but official statements impede free speech.)

The National Academies’ (NAs’) statement violates institutional neutrality in several ways. First, it is clearly a response to the Supreme Court decision, and to any reasonable individual says “that decision was wrong”. The first two paragraphs lay out why it was wrong, including the NAS’s belief that the Court’s decision presents “challenges” to the NAs’ policy to address and rectify “racial inequities”, and notes the NAs’ previous claim that affirmative action was “fundamentally important” in rectifying these inequities.

Another reason why this political statement couldn’t pass muster at Chicago is because it asserts as fact tendentious propositions like the value of affirmative action and the causation of minority underrepresentation as “past and current racial discrimination and structural, systemic, and institutional racism in education.” Again, this statement can be debated, particularly the part about existing structural, systemic, and institutional racism.

Further, the last paragraph urges people—I presume members of the NA—to engage in advancing “diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within our own institution.” That now-familiar phrase does not, of course, refer to the abstract goals of diversity, inclusion, and equity per se, which are unexceptionable, but to a specific set of policies employed in many universities and other institutions that include affirmative action, reporting of data on racial composition, and race-conscious orientation and training sessions.

As such, this call for action again establishes an official policy, which is especially problematic because NA members are being adjured to advance “equity” in the recent sense of representation of groups in proportion to their presence in the American population. Given other causes of deviations from the population average besides bigotry (e.g., differences in preference or education), it’s debatable whether “equity” in the statistical sense is what we should be striving for instead of equal opportunity. Either way, what we have here is apparently an official endorsement of a particular political position: affirmative action was right; the Supreme Court was wrong; all discrepancies from population statistics are caused by bias; and we must keep striving to match institutional racial proportions to national ones. In taking a particular moral position—and note that both Steve Pinker and I agree with more limited ways to boost ethnic diversity, but disagree with institutional statements about such issues—the NAS is violating institutional neutrality. The Academies were created and tasked (and are still tasked) not with taking sides on ideological issues, but, as Steve notes below, to provide “independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology”.

Finally, note the assertion that “diversity” is crucial to the success of colleges, our economy and society. What kind of diversity? The only kind mentioned is diversity of “racial and ethnic minority groups.” But other kinds of diversity may be even more important to the advancement of science, particularly diversity of viewpoints (the members of a given ethnic group, of course, don’t all share a single viewpoint!), political orientation, religion, and socioeconomic status.  Again, the Supreme Court made this point in its decision:

A benefit to a student who overcame racial discrimination, for example, must be tied to that student’s courage and determination. Or a benefit to a student whose heritage or culture motivated him or her to assume a leadership role or attain a particular goal must be tied to that student’s unique ability to contribute to the university. In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.

This joint statement, then, makes a number of tendentious points that, in toto, would chill the speech of NA members who disagree.  This violates any institutional neutrality that the National Academies have—or should have based on its mission statement, which says that the job of the NAS is not to promote ideological positions but to provide scientific advice to the government.

And, as Steve points out below, taking political positions like this (again, a position that both Steve and I agree with to some extent) runs the danger of alienating the public, whether those statements be Left- or Right-wing. I recently posted about a survey in Nature showing that the magazine’s political endorsement of Biden for U.S. President (a one-off endorsement) led Republicans to be more distrustful not just of the journal, but of science in general.

It is for these reasons that scientific journals and organizations should remain as far away as possible from ideological, moral, and political statements. While editors and scientists may feel compelled to inject their opinions into official venues, they are best made in statements clearly labeled as “opinion” (and distinguished from official positions of the organization), as their overall effect on science is negative—both in chilling the speech of scientists and eroding public trust in science.  While I encourage scientists to express their own views on these issues, it should always be done in personal-opinion statements that don’t carry the imprimatur of institutions like the NAS.

In response to the statement above, Steven Pinker, a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, had an email exchange with Marcia McNutt, the NAS President  (His emails were copied to the Presidents of the other two Academies as well.)

There were two back-and-forths between Pinker and McNutt. Steve gave permission to put up his emails here, but Dr. McNutt decided not to have her emails published.

Although it will become clear that I agree with Steve’s point of view in this exchange (after all, I’ve been defending the Kalven Report for years), I am posting this material to begin a discussion about diversity, about affirmative action, and about institutional neutrality. I invite readers to go through this post and give their opinions in the comments.  All I can say now is that McNutt and Pinker were in unanimity about some matters, but differed strongly about others.

Pinker’s emails:

From: Pinker, Steven <>
Sent: Monday, July 10, 2023 11:20 AM
To: McNutt, Marcia K. [JAC: I’ve omitted the NAS Presidents’ email addresses]
Cc:  Anderson and Dzau
Subject: NAS Statement on Affirmative Action

Dear Marcia,

I would like to express my disquiet at the recent NAS Statement on Affirmative Action. The desirability of racial preferences in university admissions is not a scientific issue but a political and moral one. It involves tradeoffs such as maintaining the proportion of African Americans in elite universities at the expense of fairness to qualified applicants who are rejected because of their race, including other racial minorities such as Asian Americans. Moreover it is a highly politicized policy, almost exclusively associated with the left, and one that majorities of Americans of all races oppose.

It’s not clear to me how endorsing one side of a politically polarizing, nonscientific issue is compatible with the Academy’s stated mission “providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology”.

The problem is worse than being incompatible with the Academy’s mission; it could substantially harm the Academy’s goal of promoting politicians’ and the public’s acceptance of science. Extensive research has shown that rejection of the scientific consensus on evolution, anthropogenic climate change, and other scientific topics is uncorrelated with scientific literacy but predictable from political orientation: the farther to the right, the greater the rejection of evolution and climate change.

In this regard, for the nation’s foremost scientific organization to identify itself with the political left is to all but guarantee that a substantial proportion, perhaps a majority, of politicians and the public will reject science as just another partisan faction with which they have no sympathy. This strikes me as unwise.

I wonder whether these considerations entered into the decision to issue the statement, and the Presidents decided to proceed nonetheless. Perhaps you considered the downsides and decided that the benefits outweighed the costs. Or, am I bringing up something that the Presidents did not even consider? If the latter, I urge you to at least take it into consideration in the Academies’ public communications, and other activities, in the future.

Steven Pinker
Member, National Academy of Sciences
Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology
Harvard University

Dr. McNutt teplied that day, and the next day Pinker wrote the following in response:

On Jul 11, 2023, at 11:15 AM, Pinker, Steven <> wrote:

Thank you, Marcia, for your swift reply. My concerns, though, have not been allayed.

First, if your goal in issuing the statement was not to criticize the Supreme Court decision, I believe you did not succeed. Nowhere did the statement distinguish legal from scientific issues, the first two sentences are:

“Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling to restrict affirmative action that will present challenges to efforts to diversify the nation’s colleges and universities. We strongly believe that the nation should remain committed to these efforts …”

I don’t think any reader of the letter could read that as anything but a criticism. If the Presidents’ goal was to issue a statement that was not perceived as criticizing the Supreme court or defending affirmative action, was a draft shown to politically diverse commentators (that is, including ones who are not on the political left) to ascertain whether it would be understood that way?

It’s also hard to understand how the statement did not “defend the approach to diversifying the student bodies that was struck down by the courts.” The third sentence approvingly says, “A 2011 National Academies report stated that policies that have included affirmative action are fundamentally important….” But it is exactly the policy of affirmative action that the court struck down. Even more puzzlingly, the 2011 report in fact says little about affirmative action, does not review research on its effects on innovation or global economic leadership, and does not list it among its six “Recommendations” or two “Priorities.”  The citation on p. 100 merely lists it among a range of policies it deems “fundamentally important.”

Even more concerning, the statement could have been lifted out of the pages of any recent left-wing opinion magazine, since it reiterates the current conviction that racial inequities are primarily due to “past and current racial discrimination and structural, systemic, and institutional racism in education” and to “individual bias and discrimination.” Entirely unmentioned are other potential causes of racial discrepancies, including poverty, school quality, family structure, and cultural norms. It is surprising to see a scientific organization attribute a complex sociological outcome to a single cause.

Finally, the statement, and your letter, equate diversity of ideas with diversity of race. The advantages of intellectual diversity are obvious (though I have not seen any statements from the Academy addressing the shrinking political diversity among science faculty, nor the increasing campaigns that punish or cancel scientists who express politically unpopular views). The assumption that racial diversity is the same as intellectual diversity was exactly what the Supreme Court decision singled out and struck down, since it carries with it the racist assumptions that black students think alike, and that their role in universities is to present their race-specific views to their classmates.

Of course, citing rigorous empirical research that is relevant to the issues facing the court or guiding admissions policies going forward would be a highly appropriate role for the Academies. These might include comparisons of the outcomes of racial versus socioeconomic preferences, the effects of standardized test­-based admissions policies on student success, and the implications for scientific quality at institutions like UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan of mandates to eliminate racial preferences. But simply extolling the ambiguous word “diversity” would seem to be beneath the intellectual standards we expect of a scientific academy.

Our goals are the same: to enhance the progress and political and public acceptance of science. In that regard I urge the three of you to give more consideration to the way that communications from the Academies signal solidarity with a political faction rather than “providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.”


Dr. McNutt replied soon thereafter, but the response is redacted at her request.

John McWhorter: a personal take on affirmative action

July 4, 2023 • 12:30 pm

Lately John McWhorter appears to be injecting more personal information about his life into his discourse. On a recent podcast with Glen Loury, McWhorter admitted sadly that because of his heterodox writing and ideas, he’s been more or less ostracized from the community of academic linguists, and will likely not be invited to go to meetings or give talks on his field.  In his column in the NYT today, he recounts how his blackness helped him rise in academia over people with better qualification. In other words, he talks about being a beneficiary of affirmative action.  And at the end he gives his views about the issue. Like me, he appears conflicted.

Click the screenshot below to read or, if you don’t subscribe to the NYT, someone has archived the piece here.

Here are three episodes from McWhorter’s academic career:

I was hired straight out of my doctoral program for a tenure-track job at an Ivy League university in its august linguistics department. It became increasingly clear to me that my skin color was not just one more thing taken into account but the main reason for my hire. It surely didn’t hurt that, owing to the color of my skin, I could apparently be paid with special funds I was told the university had set aside for minority hires. But more to the point, I was vastly less qualified by any standard than the other three people who made it onto the list of finalists. Plus, I was brought on to represent a subfield within linguistics — sociolinguistics — that has never been my actual specialty. My interest then, as now, was in how languages change over time and what happens when they come together. My dissertation had made this quite clear.

This still rankles, and especially did so when he met one of the better-qualified candidates who wasn’t hired.

McWhorter eventually chose as his academic niche the development of creole languages, which served him well. He did get tenure, but again he says that his race helped. Referring at first to his efforts to get up to speed into linguistics beyond than his speciality, he says this:

But it all felt like a self-rescue operation, an effort to turn myself into a good hire after the fact. That backfilling of needed skills is a lot to ask of someone who also needs to do the forward-looking research necessary to get tenure.

Of course, not everyone endeavors this Sisyphean task, and the culture I refer to has a way of ensuring others don’t have to. There is a widespread cultural assumption in academia that Black people are valuable as much, if not more, for our sheer presence as for the rigor of what we actually do. Thus, it is unnecessary to subject us to top-level standards. This leads to things happening too often that are never written as explicit directives but are consonant with the general cultural agenda: people granted tenure with nothing approaching the publishing records of other candidates, or celebrated more for their sociopolitical orientations than for their research.

Above we see him suggesting, as he has before, that it is patronizing to hold black academics to standards lower than you hold white ones. He makes this explicit when he talks about his own experience on admissions committees.

I had uncomfortable experiences on the other side of the process as well. In the 1990s, I was on some graduate admissions committees at the university where I then taught. It was apparent to me that, under the existing cultural directive to, as we have discussed, take race into account, Black and Latino applicants were expected to be much more readily accepted than others.

I recall two Black applicants we admitted who, in retrospect, puzzle me a bit. One had, like me, grown up middle-class rather than disadvantaged in any salient way. The other, also relatively well-off, had grown up in a different country, entirely separate from the Black American experience. Neither of them expressed interest in studying a race-related subject, and neither went on to do so. I had a hard time detecting how either of them would teach a meaningful lesson in diversity to their peers in the graduate program.

Yes, that’s a good question, and one that deserves an answer. As for the last bit, where he sees affirmative action as patronizing and condescending, there are black academics who would disagree with him—not just ones who didn’t need affirmative action to achieve their positions, but also ones who admit they did, but don’t care:

Perhaps all of this can be seen as collateral damage in view of a larger goal of Black people being included, acknowledged, given a chance — in academia and elsewhere. In the grand scheme of things, my feeling uncomfortable on a graduate admissions committee for a few years during the Clinton administration hardly qualifies as a national tragedy. But I will never shake the sentiment I felt on those committees, an unintended byproduct of what we could call academia’s racial preference culture: that it is somehow ungracious to expect as much of Black students — and future teachers — as we do of others.

That kind of assumption has been institutionalized within academic culture for a long time. It is, in my view, improper. It may have been a necessary compromise for a time, but it was never truly proper in terms of justice, stability or general social acceptance. Whatever impact the Supreme Court’s ruling has on college admissions, its effects on the academic culture of racial preference — which by its nature often depends less on formulas involving thousands of applicants than on individual decisions involving dozens — will take place far more slowly.

But the decision to stop taking race into account in admissions, assuming it is accompanied by other efforts to assist the truly disadvantaged, is, I believe, the right one to make.

And yet, at the beginning of the piece, he says that by the time of the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard decision, “I’d personally come to believe that preferences focused on socioeconomic factors — wealth, income, even neighborhood — would accomplish more good while requiring less straightforward unfairness.” There’s a good case to be made for that, as it seems fairer, though some readers here think that using socioeconomic standards—giving a leg up to those most disadvantaged, regardless of race—won’t advance diversity at all.  I’m not ready to give up and go by a procedure that completely ignores race, and though we can’t take race into account, we can, perhaps, eliminate the complete erasure of ethnic diversity in elite colleges via using socioeconomic standards.

Another advantage of socioeconomic considerations is that, to me at least, they’d seem to create more intellectual diversity than would simply upping ethnic diversity. For some reason I think that mixing disadvantaged people from all groups (and also taking account of political and ideological diversity during admissions) would generate more useful discussion among students than simply race-based admissions. Those late-night bull sessions were pivotal in my education, and you don’t have them without discussion and disagreement.

Finally, I do agree with McWhorter’s views expressed elsewhere: the time is coming when affirmative action for race has to come to an end, for if it hasn’t done what it was supposed to after sixty years, it’s time to contemplate other methods, methods that involve creating equal opportunity from birth. And I also agree with him that, as far as we possibly can, we should not lower admissions standards for some ethnic groups. As McWhorter notes, “it is somehow ungracious to expect as much of Black students — and future teachers — as we do of others.”

The end of affirmative action

June 27, 2023 • 10:45 am

Here’s a prediction that’s a no-brainer: this week the Supreme Court will override the Bakke decision and rule that race-based school admissions are unconstitutional. (Several states, including California, have already done this.) This will leave schools in a quandary, since nearly all universities have declared that they’re in favor of “diversity” (they mean ethnic diversity), but they’ll no longer be able to attain it using race as one criterion for admission. (Bakke prohibited “quotas”.)

The title of the article below, from the Free Press, is a bit misleading, as we already know what will happen: schools will try to do an end run around the Court’s ruling by eliminating or downgrading indices of “merit” like grades or test scores, and concentrate intead on “holistic admissions”, a backet of intangibles that includes skin color, ethnicity, and “personality”.

And it’s the “personality” issue that ultimately brought this case to the Supreme Court. Investigation of Harvard’s admissions policy revealed that assessment of personality scores was used, probably deliberately, to lower the apparent “merit” of Asian American Applicants. As the article below notes:

A 2018 analysis of 160,000 applicant records uncovered during discovery in the suit showed that Asian Americans, while outperforming every other group on academics and extracurriculars, received low marks from Harvard admissions officers when it came to personality traits—lowering their odds of admission. Asian American students were consistently deemed less “likable, courageous, kind, and respectable.”

That this method was invidious was revealed by showing that when applicants were interviewed in person by Harvard alums or other university people, their scores were not lower than those of other groups.  They were lower only when Asian Americans were assessed on paper by admissions officers who never met them. To me, this gave little doubt that there was deliberate discrimination going on here, though two sets of Federal courts unaccountably ignored this and ruled for Harvard. An appeal took the case to the Supreme Court.

As I’ve said before, affirmative action is a tough one for me.  I am pretty much a merit-based admission person, but I don’t want to see colleges—especially “elite ones”—devoid of people of color. There’s something about the “optics” of that situation that bothers me.  We are a multicultural and multiethnic America, and that should be reflected in higher education. On the other hand, I don’t favor using “holisitic” admissions, which, in the Harvard case (and probably others) led to palpable racism against Asian Americans.  One solution I’m gravitating towards is class based admissions, which acts to give up a leg to all the socioeconomically disadvantaged regardless of ethnicity, and it’s legal.

I do not, however, favor lowering the merit bar so much that people unqualified to attend a college get in. After all, there are tons of colleges with widely varying admission standards, there are also technical colleges, and, as John McWhorter claims, perhaps not everyone needs to go to college. But in effect, there’s higher education for everyone.

At any rate, this article tells you what you really know: “holistic admissions” is in the offing. Click to read

Quotes from the piece are indented. The article begins by recounting what UC Berkeley did to boost diversity after affirmative action was banned in California, first by university rules and then by law:

Ultimately, the task force concluded that, to achieve racial diversity and not violate University of California policy, it had to deemphasize quantitative yardsticks like grades and test scores and focus on other things. “The prevailing opinion was that if we focused on these qualitative assessments of a person’s interests, lived experience, that would contribute to the diversity of students,” Carson said.

The task force’s conclusion was borne out when, in the spring of 1997—after affirmative action had been prohibited at the University of California but before Boalt could implement the task force’s recommendations—the numbers of minority students admitted to the law school plummeted.

That year, the number of black students admitted to Boalt declined from 9.2 percent the year before to 1.8 percent. Latino admits dropped from 4.2 percent to 2 percent. Meanwhile, the proportion of Asian American students jumped from 15.5 percent to nearly 19 percent, and that of white students, from 57.3 percent to nearly 68 percent.

Which made the task force’s proposal all the more urgent.

Within a few years, admissions officers across the country started to call the new ideas “holistic admissions” or “holistic review.” It sounded more palatable than affirmative action, but really it was a way of achieving the same outcome without saying so explicitly.

Over the past three decades, colleges across the country—public and private—have adopted this approach in an effort to boost their student bodies’ racial diversity.

“Holistic” now includes as a criterion “lived experience”:

Yvonne Berumen, the vice president of admissions and financial aid at Pitzer College, east of Los Angeles, shared Green’s perspective. “One of the most important things in the admission process is the lived experience,” she said. “Race is a part of that.” (“Lived experience,” affirmative action critics said, is like “holistic admissions” or “diversity.” It’s a way of signaling a preference for black and Latino students, while not appearing to be discriminatory.)

If schools are barred from taking all that into account, Berumen said, “it would really change the demographic landscape of higher education.”

The “Green” above is Sonia Green, a black student at Duke, who makes no apologies for using “lived experience” as a criterion:

Green said that the old, meritocratic way of determining who gets into elite universities was actually discriminatory. “Being colorblind is racist, because it erases part of somebody’s identity,” Green said. “By saying that you don’t see someone’s race or you don’t see their color and you just see them as a person, it tells black students that you don’t see the communities that they’ve grown up in and you don’t see the experiences that have made them who they are.”

She suggested that Asian Americans who felt as though they’d been discriminated against by elite universities should rethink that. “I don’t think it’s just because you’re Asian,” Green said. “It’s probably because the school didn’t see you as being a good fit, or the school didn’t get to know enough about you as a person.”

But the problem with this is that ethnicity is not a great indicator of “lived experience”. Does a well-off Nigerian student, or a black student from a middle-class home, have the same “lived experience” as, say, a kid from an impoverished home on Chicago’ South Side? I doubt it, yet I don’t doubt that race will be an important component (if not the only component) of “lived experience.”  Green’s view seems to be that there is a relevant commonality of the communities that black student grew up in that should give them a leg up in admissions.  Well, you can make the argument that ethnicity is a good index of lived experience, but you don’t need it if you use socioeconomic status, combined with merit, as criteria for admissions.

Further, the “holistic” route was exactly what was used to keep Jews out of places like Harvard in the earlier 20th century:

In the 1920s, he recalled, Ivy League schools introduced “holistic admissions” to keep out high-achieving Jewish newcomers—only then they simply called them quotas. The much revered Harvard Man (or, for that matter, the Yale Man or Princeton Man) was a type: WASPy, athletic, well-connected, well to do.

After World War II, the old antisemitism gave way to the new meritocracy, which emphasized quantitative metrics like the SAT and grade point average to ensure that discrimination against Jews or any other unwanted minority wouldn’t rear its ugly head.

One asks: why do we consider it odious to have used holistic criteria to keep Jews out of schools, but perfectly fine to use the same criteria to keep Asian Americans (or whites out of schools)? You can respond that “discrimination like that is okay if it allows for more blacks and Hispanics to get into college,” but the whole problem is moot if you use socioeconomic criteria, which of course are correlated with ethnicity, but not perfectly. And to me, the imperfect correlation makes the whole process fairer, for there are disadvantaged people in every group.

The article winds up by noting that Asian Americans are pretty divided on the “holistic admissions” issue, but are gradually moving against this kind of affirmative action as they’re gravitating more towards the political right. In fact, as a new YouGov poll reveals, “considering race at all in the admissions process is viewed as unacceptable by 65% of Americans, while 25% say race should be allowed to be considered among other factors. About half of Democrats (48%) and Black Americans (47%) reject allowing colleges to consider race in admissions decisions.”

The graph:

I didn’t realize that so many Americans were opposed to any consideration of an applicant’s race. Surprisingly, 9% more black and 34% more Hispanics oppose using race as even one of several criteria. Even 8% more Democrats oppose affirmative action than support it. (The gap, of course, is much larger among Republicans, who don’t differ much from Independents.

Well, the decision will come down, perhaps today but almost surely within a week. Affirmative action will be dead, singing with the Choir Invisible. And colleges are already plotting workarounds.  This will involve devaluating data like grades and test scores, and more “holistic” admissions. But I don’t think that, in the future, universities will be able to get away with what Harvard did: using bogus “holistic” criteria to achieve the ethnic mix they want.  Let’s just think about to socioeconomic status, with more consideration of measurable “merit” and less “holism”.

h/t: Rosemary, R.

Upcoming webinar panel on the future of affirmative action

February 9, 2023 • 12:45 pm

Here’s the announcement I have, and note that the seminar/webinar features Loury and McWhorter, who will surely make some people angry. But everyone knows that affirmative action is effectively dead, just as we know that universities will find a way around it when the Supreme Court bans it this Spring.

To register to see it, just click HERE (or click on the screenshot. You need provide only your name and email address, and it’s free.

Law prof Jeannie Suk Gersen on the Supreme Court’s affirmative action hearing, and how Harvard and other schools will evade its ruling

November 20, 2022 • 9:30 am

Jeannie Suk Gersen is the John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, teaching constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, family law, and the law of art, fashion, and the performing arts. In the free New Yorker article below (click to read), Gersen attended the one-day Supreme Court hearing in which Students for Fair Admission (SFFA) challenged Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s race-based admission practices, which, SFFA argued, discriminated against Asian-American applicants. Gersen’s been writing for the New Yorker for some time, and attended the hearings as a representative of the press.

As you may recall, the way Harvard kept down the number of Asian-American students (thereby giving minorities and whites preferential admission) was by application-readers in the admissions department giving Asians low “personality scores”, which reduced their chance of admission under the “holisitic” system. (Asian Americans also had lower athletic scores manifested as “extracurricular activities, but that wasn’t a bone of contention.)

Curiously, alums who (as part of the admissions process) actually interviewed Asian-American applicants did NOT give them lower “personality scores”, implying that there was some manipulation of scores by the admissions office itself. I believe this is the case, but two lower courts ruled that this did not constitute egregious race-based admission because any discrimination—and yes, the statistics show there was some—was based on “implicit biases. . . that could not be eliminated in a process that must rely on judgments about individuals”. In other words, evidence of anti-Asian American bias was evidence of race-based discrimination, but not evidence of intentional discrimination. (Didn’t the administrators receive “implicit bias” training?)

SFFA appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, and it’s almost certain that the Court will rule for the plaintiffs, overturning the 1978 Bakke decision and affirmative action itself.

What’s interesting about Gersen’s report are two things: the lack of preparation for the defense on the “personality scores” issue, for which they had no good explanation, and Gersen’s take about how schools like Harvard will circumvent the Court’s likely decision to keep the minority enrollment from decreasing. Gersen, by the way, says she’s a supporter of affirmative action.

The cluelessness of the defense.  Indented bits are quotes from Gersen’s piece. Bolding is mine

The strongest aspect of the discrimination claim against Harvard involves something called the personal rating. As early as 1969, the Crimson reported that the personal rating, assigned by admissions officers based on interviews, high-school officials’ reports, and essays, “has become by far the most important factor in Harvard’s admissions process,” because the increased academic strength of the applicant pool was making it harder to select students based on grades and test scores. It reported that, for the class of 1968, “there is just about no correlation between admission to Harvard and such factors as SAT scores, rank-in-class, and predicted rank list,” but “the correlation between admissions and the personal factor is better than 90 per cent.” The article quoted the dean of admissions saying, “We are justified and obligated to trust a hunch.”

When the Harvard case first went to trial, in 2018, S.F.F.A. alleged that Harvard uses the personal rating, in which admissions officers score applicants on qualities such as “integrity, helpfulness, courage, kindness,” even “effervescence,” to discriminate against Asian American applicants. Admissions records showed that, despite alumni interviewers, who met with applicants, having given Asian students scores that were as high or higher than those of white students, admissions officers, who normally did not meet with applicants, gave Asians the lowest personal ratings of any racial group. The trial, which I attended, focussed on these disconcerting questions: Did Asian students, who had higher academic and extracurricular ratings than white applicants, actually have worse personalities than all others? Or was the personal rating concealing an impermissible racial quota?

At Monday’s arguments, Justice Samuel Alito grilled Harvard about Asians’ low personal ratings. “It has to be one of two things. It has to be that they really do lack integrity, courage, kindness, and empathy to the same degree as students of other races, or there has to be something wrong with this personal score,” he said. “Why are they given a lower score than any other group?” The question was one that Harvard’s lawyer must have been preparing to answer for at least four years. And yet the seasoned Supreme Court advocate Seth Waxman, a former U.S. Solicitor General, seemed cornered and stuck. During several uncomfortable minutes, he at first tried to deflect the question; then, somewhere in the midst of multiple attempts by Alito to get him to answer, an assist from the Chief Justice, and Waxman’s telling assurance, “I’m not trying to filibuster you,” he managed to say that the personal ratings reflect “what teachers said, what guidance counselors said, what these students wrote” in essays. (Those inputs would have to be quite poor to offset the alumni interviewers’ high scores.) In other words, Asian applicants deserved the low personal ratings—or, perhaps, if there was any discrimination, it was by high-school officials, not Harvard.

Surely Waxman, who in general argued well, could have prepared better for Alito’s excellent question. But how could he have? The scores were significantly lower than those for other groups, but were lower only from Harvard officials who never met the applicants, not from those who personally interviewed the applicants. Ergo, blame it on the letters of recommendation. But that’s not a credible answer, nor is the claim that one’s “personality score” could be at all discerned from essays. All the evidence is that Harvard discriminated, supposedly out of “implicit bias.”

How colleges will circumvent the likely ruling.

But the “implicit bias” trope may, says Gersen, be the way that American universities get around the upcoming ruling. While they can’t use racial classification as a criterion for entry, they could use indications of it—not from “personality scores,” but aspects of a more “holistic admissions analysis” that would show racial minorities had compensating virtues, like overcoming difficulties.

It is conceivable that the Court could hold that the district court erred in finding that Harvard did not discriminate against Asians in assigning personal ratings, but such a ruling would not necessarily overrule cases allowing affirmative action; rather, it would mean that Harvard defied the Court’s precedents. It’s more likely that the Court will use this case to end or severely limit affirmative action, without disturbing the district court’s factual conclusion that Asians didn’t suffer intentional discrimination here. Such a decision would not make personal ratings go away, given that Harvard says they are supposed to be assigned without considering race. If the Court prohibits the use of race, so that race-neutral methods become the only permissible means to achieve diversity, schools will likely play with formulas to produce a diverse class in which Asian admissions don’t get unacceptably out of proportion. 

It’s odd that Gersen, an Asian American herself, uses the words “unacceptably out of proportion”, which is invidious and implies a quota for Asians. What proportion of Asians, for example, is the upper bound on “acceptable”?

But what about test scores? Asian-Americans score higher than any other group. Here, from a 2018 story in the Harvard Crimson, is an 18-year series of SAT scores for admitted Harvard students. Asians are way up on top, followed by whites, and with non-Asian minorities together at the lower rank.

A Crimson analysis of the previously confidential dataset — which spans admissions cycles starting with the Class of 2000 and ends with the cycle for the Class of 2017 — revealed that Asian-Americans admitted to Harvard earned an average SAT score of 767 across all sections. Every section of the SAT has a maximum score of 800.

By comparison, white admits earned an average score of 745 across all sections, Hispanic-American admits earned an average of 718, Native-American and Native-Hawaiian admits an average of 712, and African-American admits an average of 704.

And here are Harvard’s own data on the ethnicity of students admitted in the class of 2026.  Without the “personality score” adjustment, the proportion of Asian Americans would be substantially higher and that of everyone else lower (see below):

But the way around this is simply to devalue test scores (and grades), and raise the value of less tangible scores in a way that would benefit minorities. It’s a way to discern “other” characters that aren’t given a metric, like the notorious personality scores.

Gerson explains:

[Harvard] may reduce reliance on race-neutral factors in which Asians have done well, such as standardized tests, and increase reliance on race-neutral factors in which Asians have not done as well. The personal rating and similar mushy factors could become far more determinative, because they are places where admissions officers will continue to have great discretion to bump applicants up or down based on subjective assessments so long as they are not consciously using race. Prohibiting the explicit reliance on race may even push universities to fall back on the cover of implicit bias, which is not unlawful discrimination. This could leave Asian applicants worse off than they are now. If anything, the personal-ratings morass may suggest that what’s needed to check unconscious biases are more transparently and forthrightly race-conscious efforts, not less.

Even the SFFA suggested how this might work:

In the U.N.C. case, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson worried that if “a university can take into account and value all of the other background and personal characteristics of other applicants, but they can’t value race,” that policy could actively disadvantage minorities who wish to convey the importance of race in their lives. But S.F.F.A. suggested that eliminating affirmative action does not mean disallowing applicants from writing about their racial backgrounds, or blinding admissions officers from knowing the race of an applicant. S.F.F.A.’s lawyer against U.N.C., Patrick Strawbridge, said that, though admissions officers could not credit an applicant’s race, they could credit an applicant’s cultural experience as an African immigrant. Kagan observed, “The race is part of the culture and the culture is part of the race, isn’t it? I mean, that’s slicing the baloney awfully thin.” Cameron Norris, S.F.F.A.’s lawyer against Harvard, said, “Culture, tradition, heritage are all not off-limits for students to talk about and for universities to consider.” He continued, “They can’t read that and say, ‘Oh, this person is Hispanic or Black or Asian, and, therefore, I’m going to credit that.’ They need to credit something unique and individual in what they actually wrote, not race itself.”

It seems that what S.F.F.A. is insisting on is a formal conceptual distinction—between crediting “race itself” and crediting individuals’ stories about their racial backgrounds—that makes little practical difference. If the Court issues a ruling that tracks with this idea, then, after affirmative action is gone, schools will not give any applicant a plus for “race itself,” but they will still consider race in the context of an applicant’s story.

. . . Justice Sonia Sotomayor made the point most plainly, saying that relying on race-neutral alternatives, including socioeconomic status, are really “all subterfuges to reaching some sort of diversity in race.” She echoed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in Gratz v. Bollinger, the 2003 case in which the Court held that a school could not automatically award extra points to underrepresented racial minorities. Ginsburg anticipated that what universities cannot do “in full candor,” they “may resort to camouflage” to accomplish: “For example, schools may encourage applicants to write of their cultural traditions in the essays they submit, or to indicate whether English is their second language. Seeking to improve their chances for admission, applicants may highlight the minority group associations to which they belong, or the Hispanic surnames of their mothers or grandparents.

As Gersen says, this is a distinction without a difference. And I’m not sure how colleges can evaluate intangible factors without giving them a ranking, but the Supreme Court may, in its ruling, even forestall this possibility by prohibiting “implicit bias” if there’s a statistical way to judge it (i.e., ratings of some sort).  If those ratings happen to be correlated with race—as were the personality scores—then again we have unacceptable evidence for race-based admissions.

I’m still struggling with the issue of affirmative action, which I have favored, and Gersen’s essay didn’t help. One thing I know, though, is that the concept of an “unacceptably high” proportion of Asians (or of any race) is revolting. It’s a return to the old quota system, but with the quotas remaining implicit. One thing we know, though is that 43% of the student body being Asian is “unacceptably high”. On the other hand, schools lacking minorities don’t speak well of America. (Some like John McWhorter say that this is okay: those who required affirmative action for admission could simply go to colleges with less strict criteria for admission.)

This is from the Guardian (link above):

The lawsuit claims that, in 2013, Harvard killed an internal report about its admissions policies which acknowledged that it discriminates against prospective Asian American students.

The report found that Asian Americans would comprise 43% of admissions if only academic qualifications were considered and 26% when extracurricular activities and personal ratings were considered. Yet at the time the research was conducted, Asian Americans made up 19% of the share of admitted students. [JAC: see data above: the figure is now 27.9%.]

I have been favoring socioeconomic factors as things to consider during admissions. This would raise the proportion of minority students, I think. Sotomayor says this is just a “subterfuge”—a “back door” way of boosting minority attendance. But I think you can justify socioeconomic factors as being worthy of consideration on their own: as a way to raise the diversity not of ethnicity, but of social class and wealth. It’s a way of achieving class rather than racial equity, but they’re correlated.

Two things are certain. The court will rule, probably 6-3, for the plaintiffs, thereby killing affirmative action. But also certain is that affirmative action will rise from the dead as colleges figure out ways around the Court’s ruling so to achieve what they consider “acceptable” balance. After all, much of the administration of American colleges is involved in DEI efforts, and a reduction in the number of minorities could cost people their jobs. Given the elaborate DEI structure in many schools, downsizing it will be unacceptable.